Project Lead(s): Magreth Kagashe
Poor nutrition and cognitive deficits affect many children under the age of five in developing countries.
If a child is malnourished during the first two years of life, the child’s physical and mental development will be slowed to such an extent that no correction is possible, even when the child eventually grows older.
Food shortages, mainly caused by a lack of technology needed for higher yields (such as nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation), high food prices, poor food distribution and poor knowledge are some of the causes of poor nutrition in developing countries.
The project team developed and evaluated a community support system to empower local grocers to reduce malnutrition in children under the age of two years in rural Tanzania.
This approach was based on the observation that local grocers are the most common source of food for rural households in Tanzania and offer extremely high levels of contact with families on nearly a daily basis.
A cross-sectional study was developed to characterize the types and sources of food sold in the groceries.
A cohort of grocers was provided with nutritional training and families were then assessed for child-feeding practices, compared to a control group.
Variables measured included breastfeeding status, caloric and nutrient intake, feeding style and food safety.
The results of the project show that a grocer-based model was effective in enhancing child nutritional status.
Statistically significant improvements were seen in breastfeeding after three rounds of study; food safety improved over each round and was significant. Some improvement in nutrient intake was seen after round three.
This model, which uses a different approach to improving childhood nutrition, shows some promise.
Information about the project was disseminated in conferences at Ifakara, Tanzania, the small rural town where the study was conducted, and at the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene’s 62nd Annual Meeting (2013).